Have you ever asked yourself that question, how to be yourself? It sounds silly in a way. After all, you are you, so… what the hell? Well, it turns out that the meaning of being yourself is a lot more elusive than it seems on the surface. Of course, you will always be who you are physically, but it’s what can’t be seen that defines a lot more of who you are than your mere physical presence. Who you are is hidden in the gray matter between your ears, and the way you use that information will define if you genuinely feel like you are yourself or not. I know it doesn’t sound obvious but stick around. It will all make sense.
What Does It Mean to Be Yourself?
We all live our lives according to a set of values and beliefs. It doesn’t matter if we are even aware of them; they’re there. People who lack self-awareness won’t know what those values and beliefs are, but those concepts are always present to steer the wheel of their ships.
On the other hand, we all have our strengths and weaknesses, representing the arsenal of tools we bring into life to fight our way through. On top of that, we add the skills that we acquire through learning to augment those strengths and defeat the weaknesses to give ourselves a better chance to win in life.
That’s all fine. To some extent, we all do that one way or another. That entire “baggage” represents a massive part of who we are. Through that, we filter our thoughts and ideas and adapt our reactions, attitudes, and behaviors.
To be yourself means taking stock of those concepts, being okay with them and accepting them, and then continuing to live your life with integrity. The latter is critical because who you are is one thing, but who you portray to the outside world could be different.
When the things inside you—values, beliefs, strengths, weaknesses, and skills—are out in the open, and you act and behave according to them, you live your life as an authentic person.
When you lie, hide, or fake your way through life by pretending to have different values, more strengths, fewer weaknesses, and more skills, you are not true to who you are. If you live your life in that manner, you lie to the outside world, but, most importantly, you lie to yourself.
Should You Even Bother to Be Yourself?
That begs the question about whether it’s even important to be yourself. After all, if you lie and cheat your way through life and manage to get by, why not? Aren’t success and happiness goals themselves? Shouldn’t you do everything in your power to get them, including pretending to be who you are not?
Unfortunately, faking your way through life will only get you a few steps forward, but it will erode your foundation. Over time, the house of cards will crumble.
Yes, we all resort to tiny white lies on our resumes to get a job. But how far can you get through that job without putting in the work and learning what the heck you’re supposed to do?
We all use our absolute best picture in an online profile, but how will that hold when you meet a person face to face?
Sometimes, we feel like an impostor, but how long can we fake our way through it?
It’s all a gamble. In both situations, you might come out lucky and succeed, but the period between your white lie and the result is what erodes your true self.
When you are the only person who knows the truth, the lie will give you unmatched anxiety. The worst thing about it is that you can’t even talk to anyone. After all, you’re trying to keep this all hidden.
Imagine doing that everywhere in your life—your job, spouse, parents, and kids. Soon enough, you won’t be able to manage all those personas in your mind. And even sooner than you think, YOU won’t know who you are anymore.
That new version of you won’t be able to live up to the original values or even tap into your natural strengths because you have lost yourself.
The only way to avoid that dangerous path is to say no to being unauthentic.
How Are We Unauthentic?
There are many ways in our daily lives that we behave unauthentically. The more you strive to observe yourself in those moments, the more your self-awareness will increase, and you’ll catch yourself in time to nip it in the bud.
First, most people have about three different personas, sometimes more. There’s you at home with your spouse and kids. That’s the you who farts on the couch and wears a t-shirt with holes in it. You know who you are.
Then there’s another slightly more sophisticated you at work where you need to show your co-workers that you’ve got yourself together so they can trust that you can get your shit done on the job.
Sometimes there’s another type of you with your friends. That’s the you who pretends to know a lot more than you do about philosophy to impress that one friend with a Ph.D.
You can go on and identify a lot more different of these “you” personas sprinkled all over your world. For example, you at the gym and you at a conference. How about you at the park talking to all the other parents, or you at your high school reunion trying to impress that man or woman who used to be the boy or girl who never even looked at you when you were young?
Do you recognize all those people? Of course, you don’t, because you’ve lost track of them. They pop up like characters in the script, depending on which stage you’re on.
Living that kind of life is dangerous because the amount of energy you expend trying to manage these expectations and images will leave no energy for what is truly important in your life.
20 Ways to Be Yourself
Here are twenty ways to use and apply today to live a more authentic life and be yourself. Some of these practices are challenging and require a mindset shift on your part. They’ll take years, if not decades, to master, but, in the end, I am confident that they will help you lead a life of authenticity. In turn, that will drive you on a more enjoyable and fulfilled life path.
Be Yourself with You
Since we are talking about being yourself, the first and foremost step is to be yourself with yourself. You might not realize this, but most of the fake versions of you out there begin with you not accepting who you are or, even worst, having no idea about who you are.
Accept who you are
We often see ourselves through the prisms of our flaws and failures than through our strengths and successes. Therefore, it’s not unusual for us to hide that part of ourselves and try to shine an intense light on the things we can call successes. But that means that you are not letting those flaws and failures teach you anything.
Before you can start living an authentic life, you must let all that go and accept who you truly are with both your flaws and strengths.
That means doing the work to understand who you are and learn to appreciate that, no matter how it looks. The more you learn who you are and begin to work on those areas of your life where you feel behind, the more you will accept yourself and grow the self-confidence to be yourself.
Understand your strengths and skills
We often take our strengths and skills for granted, and we look at our weaknesses and flaws as bad omen someone had bestowed upon us. It’s okay to work on your weaknesses over time and figure out ways to work around them, but it’s not okay for those weaknesses to be the sole subject of your focus.
By understanding your strengths and working deliberately to improve your skills through continuous learning, you can open a gate to celebrate you. Your strengths and skills are your most critical resources for navigating life. Learn what they are and be proud of them. It’s a gateway to self-esteem, which you need to start loving yourself a bit more.
Embrace your imperfections
Weaknesses, on the other hand, are areas in your life where you have difficulties. They are those impediments that hold you back and act as hurdles along the way. They could be physical, mental, emotional, or social. No matter what they are, you can’t sweep them under the rug and hope they’ll be gone by morning.
They won’t. Unlike strengths and skills, which hardly improve without deliberate action, weaknesses grow and multiply through inaction. The more you don’t do the things you suck at, the more you will suck at them.
Taking stock of your weaknesses and working on ways to navigate around them is a critical step to leading a more authentic life and being yourself. You can’t be yourself if you hide your weaknesses. Instead, learn how to embrace your imperfections and be yourself despite them.
This one is tightly related to the two ones above. When you grow, you improve your strengths, increase your skills, and diminish the effect that your weaknesses have on your life.
Growing means opening yourself up to more opportunities and new experiences. That means that you must also be open to change and understand that change is a critical step in becoming a superior human being in every aspect of your life.
That requires you to take care of your mind and your mental strength. Learning new skills, sharpening existing skills, and dabbing outside of your comfort zone are critical prerequisites to growth.
Similarly, taking care of your body through proper nutrition and exercise will help increase your self-confidence, self-image, and, therefore, your self-esteem.
Be kind to yourself
A big part of accepting who you are is admitting that you’ve made mistakes in the past—probably lots of them, some bigger than others. One way or another, those mistakes are a part of the reasons you are here today, so you might be tempted to say that it’s okay.
But maybe you got lucky. Instead of having that detached relation to your mistakes, you must acknowledge them and forgive yourself for having made them. Once you go through that forgiveness phase, you can now look at those mistakes with a different eye and ask what you can learn from them.
When you sharpen your judgment by learning from your past mistakes, you improve your decision-making process, and over time you will make fewer mistakes.
But the critical piece here is to learn and practice how to forgive yourself, which is an essential prerequisite to being kind to yourself.
Understand and design your values
As you strive to navigate this complicated machine that is you, you might find cases in which your values across different areas of life clash. That’s okay. You need to take the time and work on understanding your values and how they drive your life.
Then, you need to take the extra step of designing a better value system for yourself, one in total alignment with who you are at the core. This will be extremely vital to have when you start creating goals in life because without values and goals aligned, you won’t achieve those goals. That means that simply knowing your values is not enough. You must genuinely act and behave by them.
There’s a huge difference between having a pretend wall of values and a system of values that you truly and genuinely live by. The more you try to fabricate values that you don’t honestly believe in, the less you can be authentic and be yourself.
Have your vision and goals
One part of being yourself is having a vision and dreams for your life. I’m not talking about the vision of your family and friends, although you should have that, too. I’m referring to YOUR dreams and vision for YOUR life.
What do you want to be? Who do you want to be and where?
These are questions that you need to ask and see what they reveal. Based on them, you can then define goals for yourself, and those goals will create a purpose. When you have a purpose, you begin to feel your individuality coming to life and breaking through the surface.
When you strive to accomplish what you set your mind to, you are now who you are.
Don’t get stuck in the past
The past is great to feed us with information and teaching moments, but it’s a horrible pit of self-doubt and darkness. Not trying to be overly gloomy, but it’s true in most cases. Even if you had a good childhood with no issues, there’s always a dangerous melancholy trap linked to the past.
Past can scare the shit out of you and propel you to action, or it can keep you stuck. Neither one is good. When you are too scared of your past, you’ll run blindly away from it with no regard to where you’re running to. When you are too stuck in your history, you can’t move forward.
Only use the past to learn. Reflect and analyze what happened, how it affected you, and how you reacted. You can’t change your history, so lamenting about it does you no good.
Learn from your past and move on. The past doesn’t define who you are; instead, who you want to be and who you will become in the future describes the real you.
Identify negative self-thought
Regardless of how strongly and deliberately you work on yourself, there will come times when your mind will start to chat. It often happens in moments of mental quietness or, just the opposite, in moments of high stress and anxiety.
Thoughts such as “I’m not good enough,” “I can’t do this,” “They’ll never like that,” will pop up when you least expect them. You’ll feel a knot in your stomach, and your head will start to spin.
Resist that voice. Recognize it and let it be. It cannot define you if you don’t let it. Squash it as soon as you hear it and learn to ignore it.
Treat yourself as you would treat others
Every time you have any doubts about whether you deserve a specific treatment or if you should behave a certain way, always ask yourself what kind of advice you would give to your child or a close and trusted friend.
The thing is, by default, we are fantastic at providing sound advice to those people we care about the most, but we genuinely suck at giving ourselves advice on the same topic.
Learn how to catch yourself following different rules than those you’d advise your loved ones on and change your attitude. You are deserving of that just as much as the other people you care about are.
Be Yourself with Others
When you begin to live your life authentically, one giant step is to do the same in front of the people around you. As the saying goes—dance like nobody’s looking. The question becomes, though, how do you learn how to dance like nobody’s looking while knowing very well that everybody’s looking?
Being vulnerable doesn’t mean being weak; let me get that myth out of the way. Being vulnerable means accepting that you are a human being and therefore prone to flaws and fears.
When you are open with your feelings and emotions and allow other people to see that, you become more connected; your relationships solidify.
However, you must make sure that you are vulnerable only with the right people—the people you trust and wish to maintain and grow a relationship with.
Freedom of expression and courage of expression are two fundamental aspects of your individuality. When you are vulnerable, you need to do so through one or more forms of expression.
To do that, you must first accept your emotions and feelings without judgment. They are what they are. You are human, and you are not only entitled to have them, but you will also have them regardless of if you want them or not.
By practicing speaking up and let others know what you think and what you feel, you are not only shaping your individuality, but you are also creating connectedness.
Many people live with a vast gap between what they are and what they believe they are. To reduce that gap and, in time, eradicate it, you need to work on your integrity.
Having integrity means that you do what you say, and you say what you mean. That requires you to be direct yet caring, and when you make promises, to fulfill them.
To practice this type of integrity, you need to boldly announce your intent way before it’s even clear that you can uphold it and then act following that intent.
Stop trying to please others
Trying to please others is not the same as being helpful. It’s okay to make efforts to help the people you care about when they are in need.
However, it’s not okay to live your life trying to please everyone around you just for the sake of always being the “good guy.” Doing so will lessen the respect you get from other people, and soon enough, you will encounter people who will take advantage of that character trait. Learn how to say no when you have to, and say yes when you want to.
Don’t worry about what others think about you
Harvard professor Bob Keegan calls this the “second job.” It’s the work most of us do daily to manage the image we present to other people.
We try hard to anticipate what the people around us would like us to be, appear, and act like, and we bend ourselves backward to match that picture.
That’s the antithesis of being yourself; it’s living someone else’s vision of you. It doesn’t matter if that other person is a parent, a spouse, a kid, or a co-worker. Worrying about what they think about you will eat up your energy and leave you depleted.
Don’t compare yourself with others
It’s natural as you grow to look at others as role models. There’s a fine line between being inspired by someone and envying what they have or what they are.
It’s okay to look for mentors and try to learn their processes and emulate their mindsets in a way that applies to your life’s context. It’s not okay to compare yourself to them as it will only lead to frustration and anxiety.
The only person you need to compare yourself to is you from the day before.
Surround yourself with positive people
They say that we are the sum of the five closest people around us. I’m not sure about that number five, but I am confident that a lot of how we feel and think is influenced by the people we allow in our lives.
You need to try as hard as you can to bring as many authentic people as possible into your life—people who know what it means to be themselves and live in that way. They are the people that will hold you accountable and won’t let you be fake around them.
It’s the kind of tribe you want—they will encourage you, and they’ll be there when you need them and vice-versa.
Be Yourself with The World
The last three points are more generic, and their context is “the world.” By the world, I mean your world, no matter how big or small. They are general things you can do to be more truthful about being yourself.
Stand your ground
When you have convictions in the form of values and beliefs, to be yourself means to stand by those convictions no matter where you are. It means standing up for yourself when the situation requests it and standing up for others when you see an injustice.
There are many situations in your life where you lack control, and there are others where you have it. Being yourself includes taking responsibility for those areas of your life where the control is yours. That means acting and assuming responsibility for the good and the bad.
Control the inputs
Last but not least, remember that your brain is easily swayed. No matter how much self-control you have, there are times when the avalanche of information that you allow to come through will eventually shift your mind if left unchecked.
You need to control what kind of information and what volume you allow to come in. That includes news, social media, and people talking. Be very stingy with what you allow your mind to focus on. Instead of allowing yourself to be overwhelmed by information, create an intentional life where you control what comes in and what goes out.
Be Yourself and Be Proud of It
There are few things such as liberating as finally letting go of your guard and being yourself. The freedom you gain when you stop managing yourself instead of living your life is extraordinary.
If you experience that already, I commend you. If not, learn how to be yourself and learn it fast. I struggled with this most of my life, and over the past few years, I barely began to scratch the surface. But even though those are minor scratches on the surface, I’ve started to see the light.
I hope you can, too. I know you can. Be yourself, and be proud of it because, if you’d allow me to remind you, you are fantastic!
Other Resources on How to Be Yourself
- How to Be Yourself in Five Simple Steps
- 10 Ways to Always Be Yourself and Live Happily
- How to be yourself: 16 no bullsh*t steps
- What It Really Means to “Just Be Yourself” and 3 Ways to Do It
Now, before you go, I have…
3 Questions For You
- Do you think you are a genuinely authentic person?
- What is the most challenging part about living an authentic life?
- Do you catch yourself during little moments of faking and, if so, what do you do?
Please share your answers in the comments below. Sharing knowledge helps us all improve and get better!
Hi there! I’m Iulian, and I want to thank you for reading my article. There’s a lot more if you stick around. I write about personal development, productivity, fiction writing, and more. Also, I’ve created Self-Growth Journey, a free program that helps you get unstuck and create the beautiful life you deserve. Enjoy!